The first interview in our series of Saturday interviews is with Ryan Egan. Ryan is a very good friend of mine from way back to our days at AFLBS together. He is also the worship leader at Living Word Free Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, and he blogs regularly at I am an Offering.
Tell us a little (or a lot) about yourself:
RE: I’m a follower of Jesus, husband of one beautiful wife, daddy to two children (one 3-year-old and one on the way). I’ve been doing church music and worship ministry in some form (paid or volunteer) for over 10 years. My number one desire is to teach Christians that worship is a lifestyle and not just an hour on Sunday morning. I love to teach the concept of living a life of worship in every situation. I also love equipping church musicians to become better at their musical skills as well.
How long have you been blogging? Has all of your online writing been at I Am an Offering?
RE: My first post, “The Meter Ate My Quarter” was published June 14, 2006, so I’ve been blogging (off and on) for 5 years now. I have also written guest posts for The Worship Community, Worship Minsitry, as well as a handful of guest posts for other blogger’s websites and am starting to get asked to do this more often.
What was your motivation to start blogging?
RE: As a creative-type person I realized that a lot of my emotions and thoughts were sitting in my head and brooding there instead of getting out. Over the course of my blogging experience it has morphed into a whole different mindset, but initially the sole purpose was to organize my thinking and create a journal of sorts that could help me and potentially help others.
Do people from your church interact with you about the content on your blog, and if they do, how so?
RE: This requires a completely separate interview as this very thing shaped a lot of how I approach leadership and writing my thoughts for the world to see and is also the basis for a short book that I’m working on. 🙂 The short answer is yes, and all in all it has been very positive for both my spiritual and leadership growth as well as equipping church members.
As a worship leader, do you have a focus and/or a heart for your ministry?
RE: Absolutely! My ultimate hope is to help teach and equip worship leaders and church attenders within our Free Lutheran denomination but my overall focus is definitely music and music ministry. I also try to write posts that non-musicians can relate to (how to worship God in every area of life) as well.
Describe your involvement with social media and how it has helped and/or hindered your blog and your ministry.
RE: I love social media but there are definitely some dangers with it as well. Twitter has given me connections that I never could have imagined I would get. I’ve been able to get free books, albums to review, and more because of Twitter. I’ve made real connections and real friends there that I’ve never physically met. My involvement in social media gave me my current job as a social media specialist for a large company. However, you can definitely get caught up in the world online and spend all of your time on Twitter, Facebook and Google plus without ever actually doing anything productive or creative. You can spend so much time reading other people’s thoughts that you feel like you don’t have anything to say. However, overall, I’ve been able to share struggles, joys, and challenges with people who are dealing with the same things that I would not have been able to do without social media. It has been much more helpful than harmful for me.
What do you say to complaints from people like me about the lack of content in contemporary praise and worship music?
RE: I’d say look harder. 🙂 10 years ago I would have agreed with you, but there are so many resources out today that, if you know where to look, you will find extremely deep content within modern music that is fresh and creative. Sovereign Grace Music (discern the Calvinism, of course) publishes meaty lyrics with great melodies. Sojourn music just finished a project where they took the original lyrics of many Isaac Waats hymns and placed them in jazz, blues, folk, and bluegrass settings. Keith and Kristin Getty along with Stuart Townend have a specific ministry to write “modern hymns” for the church. Matt Redman’s new project “10,000 Reasons” has some incredibly moving and Biblical lyrics on it. I would say, however, to never ever stop utilizing the great hymns that have come before us. Too many worship leaders ignore them much to their detriment.
What is the one passage in the Bible every worship leader should take to heart?
RE: Jesus, in Matthew 15:7-9, quotes God speaking through the prophet Isaiah telling the Israelite people that they “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” There was a time in my own life when I was leading worship with my lips and “talking the talk” but my heart was far from God and full of some disgusting stuff. He’s cleansed me and forgiven me, but it is always a huge danger for anyone on a “platform” to preach one thing and live a completely different thing. I would also point people to the entire twelfth chapter of Romans where it speaks of ways to lift your brother up in love. Matt Redman, a long-time worship leader, just said, “Worship leaders must love God, love others, and love music. In that order.” He’s right on.
What should pastors like me, who have very little musical background, know about facilitating worship?
RE: First, understand that emotion is okay. Emotionalism is not okay. Picking music purely for the sake of generating an emotional response can be dangerous but understanding and allowing music to deeply touch a part of our emotions as we worship is acceptable and greatly beneficial. And this includes more emotion than just joy and elation. This includes sadness and lament as well. One basic musical concept that all pastors should learn is how to pick a song with a generally comfortable vocal range. Many times congregations don’t sing out because the music is too high or too low. In general, look for songs that go from C to C. (C to shining C, if you want to remember it that way). For the most part, these songs are comfortable for people to sing. Also, be sure to teach and remind your congregation that worship is more than singing and music. Use language like “continue to worship with our tithes and offerings” or “join me in worship as we listen to God’s Word being proclaimed.”
What is the one worship album I should be listening to right now?
RE: Only 1? That’s not fair. 🙂 Since you like deep content, I would recommend Over the Grave, Hymns of Isaac Watts from Sojourn Music. It will do two things: enhance your appreciation for Watts’ incredibly poetry and challenge you to hear a different community’s expression of worship that has been very powerful for them as well as find a taste of worship musical that isn’t your typical radio friendly fare.
Thank you so much, Ryan, for taking the time to spend here today. Have a blessed weekend, everyone!